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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

February 14, 2014 at 10:59 AM

‘Yuppie playgrounds’? Where gentrification is hottest in Seattle


Anti-gentrification protesters blocking a Microsoft Connector bus on Capitol Hill (Photo courtesy Sean Maguire, @maguiresean on twitter)

Earlier this week, two masked men blocked a Microsoft employee shuttle on Capitol Hill, an act inspired by the recent “Google bus” protests in San Francisco.

The Capitol Hill Blog reported that the men handed out fliers condemning the neighborhood’s transformation into an “upscale yuppie playground” for tech workers, and the skyrocketing rents that are displacing less-affluent, longtime residents — in other words, gentrification.

Capitol Hill has seen this type of thing before.

In 2012, a woman made national headlines when she put on a bridal gown and “married” an old Capitol Hill warehouse that was slated for redevelopment. She said she “loved” the building and wanted to save it — and the neighborhood — from gentrification.

Though these attention-grabbing stunts unfolded on Capitol Hill, gentrification in Seattle is hardly confined to that neighborhood. In fact, a recent Federal Reserve Bank study concluded that Seattle was second only to Boston in the degree to which gentrification had spread throughout the city since 2000.

So where are Seattle’s most rapidly-gentrifying neighborhoods?

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

It’s not a simple question to answer because there is no standard method for measuring gentrification. However, there are three demographic indicators that, when on the rise,  point to gentrification:

  • median home value
  • median household income
  • percentage of residents with college degrees

To find the fastest-gentrifying places in Seattle, first I looked at census data from 2000, and selected those census tracts that were below the city’s median for all three of these indicators — that is, these tracts had not gentrified.

I found that by 2013 nine of these tracts had outperformed Seattle’s overall increase in each of the three measures. These nine beat a citywide 64 percent increase in home values, 32 percent increase in household income, and 20 percent increase in college grads.

This signaled that these nine areas had experienced some of Seattle’s most significant gentrification since 2000.

As expected, one of these areas is on Capitol Hill, around Pike/Pine. South Lake Union, though, saw the most dramatic rise in the three indicators. Gentrification also made deep inroads into Ballard, the Central District, and Beacon Hill.

But many other neighborhoods you might have expected to see on the list — Belltown and Fremont, for example — did not make the cut because they’d already shown strong enough signs of gentrification prior to 2000.

Two top-gentrifying census tracts are in West Seattle — one containing the new High Point planned community, and the other in the South Delridge/Westwood area.

Residents of these two areas probably don’t have to fear their neighborhoods becoming an “upscale yuppie playground.” The Microsoft Connector bus has no stops there — at least not yet.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: gentrification


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